Joseph Yam

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This is a Chinese name; the family name is Yam.
The Honourable
Joseph Yam
Joseph Yam UBS.jpg
1st Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority
In office
April 1993 – 1 October 2009
Governor Chris Patten
Succeeded by Norman Chan
1st Director of the Office of the Exchange Fund
In office
Governor Chris Patten
Succeeded by Office Abolished
Member of the board of directors of the Swiss Bank UBS AG,
Member of the Corporate Culture and Responsibility Committee and the Risk Committee[1]
Assumed office
Personal details
Born Joseph YAM Chi-kwong
9 September 1948[1]
Nationality Hong Kong Chinese
Political party none
Alma mater University of Hong Kong
Occupation Retired
Profession Economist
Joseph Yam
Traditional Chinese 任志剛
Simplified Chinese 任志刚

The Honourable Joseph YAM Chi-kwong, GBM, GBS, CBE, JP (born 1948, Hong Kong)[2])[3] is a Hong Kong statistician, economist and civil servant. Mr. Yam was the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) from April 1993 to 1 October 2009.

Since 2011, Mr. Yam has been a member of the board of directors[4] of the Swiss Bank UBS AG.[5] In 2014, following UBS AG's restructuring, he was appointed to the board of directors of the UBS Group AG.[1]


After Mr. Yam graduated from the University of Hong Kong in economics, social sciences and statistics in 1970,[6] he joined the Government of Hong Kong as a statistician in 1971, and became an economist in 1976. Subsequently, in 1982, Mr. Yam was appointed as Principal Assistant Secretary for Monetary Affairs.[7]

In 1983, Mr. Yam contributed to formulating the peg between the Hong Kong dollar and US dollar.[8] In 1985, Joseph Yam was appointed as Deputy Secretary for Monetary Affairs and in 1991, as a Director of the Office of the Exchange Fund.[7]

When the Office of the Exchange Fund merged with Office of the Commissioner of Banking in 1993, Mr. Yam became the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority.

Tenure as Chief Executive of HKMA[edit]

In 1995, the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers voted Mr. Yam as Banker of the Year.[9]

Despite a study conducted by S. K. Tsang, a Professor of Economics in Hong Kong Baptist University, entitled "A Study of the Linked Exchange Rate System and Policy Options for Hong Kong" and indicating there were weaknesses of the HKD-USD exchange rate peg system during the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, Mr. Yam did not amend the narrow-based peg, but defended the Hong Kong dollar by pushing up interest rates. In particular, Mr. Yam pushed the overnight Interbank rates up to 280% on 23 October 1997.[10]

In an audacious move, the HKMA also bought US$15 billion in stocks amidst the market panic in 1998. The measure restored calm, and consequently succeeded to defend the Hong Kong fixed exchange rate parity against the US dollar. The move was initially criticised by, amongst others, Alan Greenspan, who voiced concern in September 1998 that the strategy would fail and erode the credibility of the HKMA.[11] "It turned out that his timing was exquisite," Greenspan later said. "It was a risky action [which]... I wouldn't recommend as a general rule for central banks."[11]

In 2007, Mr. Yam was the highest paid central banker in the world, with an annual salary of US$1.32 million, about seven times that of the Chairman of the Federal Reserve ($191,300).,[12] and approximately three times that of the President of the European Central Bank (EUR 351,816 in 2008), the Governor of the Bank of England (GBP 290,000 in 2008) and the Governor of the Bank of Japan ($370,000 in 2007)[13]

In 2008, Mr. Yam was summoned by the a subcommittee of Legislative Council of Hong Kong in a hearing regarding issues arising from Lehman Brothers-related Minibonds and structured financial products[14]

Convergence plan[edit]

Noticing the pricing differential between shares listed on both the local market (H-shares) and the Shanghai Stock Exchange (A-shares), Yam pushed for mechanisms to promote greater convergence and arbitrage. Ignoring major obstacles pointed out by local brokers, he is credited with persuading the Government to take a 5.9% stake in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange as leverage, and then pushing the program[15] which allowed mainland individuals to buy Hong Kong securities directly by opening foreign-currency accounts at the Bank of China branch in northern Tianjin. The scheme was announced by the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on 20 August 2007,[16][17] but stalled at the starting gate, when Beijing refused to grant permission.[18]

Retirement from public service[edit]

On 19 May 2009, Mr. Yam confirmed his plan to retire, after having served in his post for 16 years.[8] When it was originally announced in October 2007 that he would retire on 1 October 2009, financial columnist Jake van der Kamp linked Mr. Yam's departure with his handling of the A-share and H-share plans which destabilised Hong Kong's economy.[15]

Sir Donald Tsang described Mr. Yam as a "comrade in arm [sic] who acted in concert with the government in 1998 to overcome the Asian financial turmoil and under the present financial tsunami, Hong Kong's banking system has remained stable."[8]

Membership in corporate governing bodies[edit]

Swiss bank UBS Group AG[edit]

In April 2011, Mr. Yam was elected to the board of directors of UBS AG and since 2011 he has been a member of both the Corporate Culture and Responsibility Committee and the Risk Committee.[1] Since 2014, Mr Yam is a member of the board of directors of UBS Group AG.[1]

Other mandates on boards of corporations, organisations and foundations or interest groups[edit]

Joseph Yam has been an honorary consultant of the People's Bank of China since September 2009 and is Executive Vice-President of the China Society for Finance and Banking.[8]

Since 30 September 2010, Mr. Yam sits on the boards of Johnson Electric Holdings Limited as an independent non-executive director and member of remuneration committee[6]

From 6 August 2010 to 23 October 2013, Mr Yam was independent non-executive director, chairman of risk management committee and member of strategy development committee at China Construction Bank Corporation.[6]

He served as the Hong Kong Mortgage Corporation Limited in the position of a deputy chairman and director[6] and as a member of the advisory council at Central Bank of United Arab Emirates.[6]

Joseph Yam is also a member of the International Council of China Investment Corporation,[1] and a member of the boards of UnionPay International Co., Ltd. and of the Community Chest of Hong Kong.[1]

He is also a Distinguished Research Fellow at the Institute of Global Economics and Finance at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.[1]


Mr. Yam was awarded Doctor of Business Administration honoris causa by the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology in November 2009.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "UBS BoD Joseph Yam". UBS. Retrieved 21 March 2015. 
  2. ^ "Home return" experiences
  3. ^ "Joseph Yam CV". Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "People: UBS AG". Reuters. Retrieved 15 March 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "Bloomberg". Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved February 21, 2015. 
  7. ^ a b Executive Profiles, HKMA official website at the Wayback Machine (archived 19 January 2008)
  8. ^ a b c d News at Seven-Thirty on 19 May 2009 (TV news broadcast). Hong Kong: TVB. 2009. 
  9. ^ "Joseph Chi Kwong YAM Doctor of Social Sciences". Honorary Degrees Congregation. The University of Hong Kong. Retrieved 10 April 2013. 
  10. ^ "HKMA's Response to Views of Market Practitioners and Academics on the Linked Exchange Rate System", Legco Papers
  11. ^ a b Scott Lanman (19 May 2009). "Greenspan Says Hong Kong's Yam Was Right to Buy Stocks in 1998". Bloomberg. 
  12. ^ Catherine Rampell (27 March 2009). "(Central) Bankers' Salaries". The New York Times. 
  13. ^ Kathy Lien (26 March 2009). "Updated! Salaries of Central Bank Governors". 
  14. ^ Legislative Council Subcommittee to Study Issues Arising from Lehman Brothers-related Minibonds and Structured Financial Products
  15. ^ a b Jake van der Kamp, Monitor, South China Morning Post, 30 October 2007
  16. ^ Gita Dhungana, "Early 1,000-point surge recedes on profit-taking", The Standard, 22 August 2007
  17. ^ Gita Dhungana, "China's own Frankenstein", The Standard, 27 August 2007
  18. ^ Katherine Ng, "'Direct train' stuck at starting gate", The Standard, 28 August 2007
Government offices
Preceded by
Deputy Secretary for Monetary Affairs
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
Director of the Office of the Exchange Fund
Succeeded by:
New office Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority
Succeeded by
Norman Chan
Order of precedence
Preceded by
Hari Harilela
Recipient of the Grand Bauhinia Medal
Hong Kong order of precedence
Recipient of the Grand Bauhinia Medal
Succeeded by
Ronald Arculli
Recipient of the Grand Bauhinia Medal